Frank Gutch Jr: A Compendium of Music Topics – Myspace, Revisiting the Intellectual Property Debate, The Green Pajamas’ Death By Misadventure, and Those Pesky Notes….
Look, I tried to come up with a comprehensive topic for this week. I really did! But this past week has been such a jumble of music-related mumbo-jumbo that I thought I might take this time to put some things behind me. Seems like every time I turn around, someone is promoting this or bitching about that and I try to keep up, but it seems impossible. I have music to listen to, people, and don’t really have time for all the bullshit! And yet, here I am, aren’t I? Diving head first into questions which, like the oil in the Gulf, keep floating to the surface. So let’s start with….
What’s With All the Hate for Myspace?
This is going to sound a bit Facebook-y, but what the hell? Lately, I am watching people right and left slashing Myspace‘s tires! I don’t understand. Am I missing something here? Do we pay for Myspace? Is Myspace responsible for some evil out there in the world? I remember when I first visited the site. I found out that News Corporation owned it and almost boycotted it on general principles. But it was a music site, right? And I write about music, right? It would have been a little shortsighted of me, don’t you think? Well, that is what I thought at the time, so I settled into learning the ins and outs. Not long after, I was whizzing through the site like a pro, finding music and making acquaintances, many of whom I still maintain today.
Myspace then and Myspace today have been an integral part of my research, so when I noticed the hue and cry I wanted to find out why. So I asked. Seems like Myspace doesn’t do it for musicians anymore. Seems like many musicians hate what they’ve done to the site. Seems like there is too much advertizing and too little traffic. Seems like Myspace has just plain been left in the dust, social networking-wise.
A lot of it sounds to me like sour grapes. To listen to the handful of musicians with whom I talked, Myspace is just, well, not what it once was and not what it should be. When asked the question about what it should be, the answer was either “what it used to be” or “more like Facebook”. Pretty vague.
This is what I think. Many musicians do not know how to promote themselves. They do not understand the reality of closing doors. I am telling musicians all the time to keep doors open because you never know where that one person or small group of people they need might be. They might just be behind door number Myspace. You never know!
Look at my experience. I found Eva Turnova on Myspace. For those not in the know, Turnova is the bass player for Plastic People of the Universe, a very well known band in Prague. She released a mini-LP as Eturnity which I think outstanding and I would never have found it without Myspace. Well, let us say that the percentage would have been greatly reduced. Instead, I was turned on to a magnificent and moody album sprinkled with electronics and odd beats and Turnova’s mid-range sensual voice. It is nothing like Plastic People. It is completely Turnova. And I can find it nowhere on The Net (Here is her Myspace page), though I admit to not using sites like Spotify or MOG. Truth be told, I have little faith in a site which claims to have millions of songs and yet covers only three of the many Green Pajamas‘ albums. Twenty-some? Big hole…..
I found one of my all-time favorite bands on Myspace: Research Turtles. That’s right. The band I trumpet all the time. The page was super fresh according to Rick Norman who runs the page for the guys. So fresh that when I attempted to contact them, he missed the message I sent requesting info. Seems like it took him a little time to figure out the ins and outs of their “email” system. But we finally made contact. And I owe that to Myspace. If you want to check their page out, click here, and no, there is no free download of the first album anymore. It will just link to the band’s music page of their own website. But until they updated that page, Myspace was the only place you could stream the self-titled (and first) album….. Jeez. I hope this doesn’t cause them to delete their Myspace page. I’ve grown attached to it, somehow…..
Early in my Indie experience, I ran across a couple of closely related “groups” through Myspace: Uncle Sinner and White Light Machine. Two of the damndest bands I’d heard until Sinking Creek fell in front of me. I see that WLM has canceled their Myspace page. Crap! That means I have to search so I can link people to the music.
And I found Australia’s Pepa there too. You more than likely have not heard of them because the album has been minimally promoted outside of Australia. Good stuff, though. Melodic, spacey, beautiful stuff. You can check them out here…..
Musicians, do you get what I’m saying here? You are all the time telling me that you need to find a way to get your music heard. Well, not everyone has abandoned Myspace. People still use it to find bands and to find music. If you close the door, you might be closing the one door you need. I’m always telling you that it only takes one person. I believe that. That person might well be behind door number Myspace. When that happens (and you never know), I’ll be the first one saying “Let’s see what they’ve won, Alex” and applauding louder than anyone…..
And the Intellectual Properties Question Gets Muddied Further…..
Understand this. I am not a lawyer nor do I understand the law beyond the stance of common sense, but the whole music business major label stand on The Copyright Act of 1976 has me pissed. Recently, one Harold Feld, a senior VP of Public Knowledge, posted a rundown on a new position by the US Trade Representative regarding copyright (read it here). Evidently, this organization has historically evaded the question of copyright but on July 3rd, announced that it would include a chapter (assumedly in their “here’s what we stand for” log) regarding intellectual property, noting “limitations and exceptions”. Feld stated that it is the first time that the organization (USTR) has faced the problem and that it is an historical move. Feld would know better than myself.
In the article, Feld states this: “For USTR to publicly embrace limitations and exceptions as ‘an important part of the copyright ecosystem’ is the equivalent of The Pope saying: ‘in some cases, birth control is a good thing because it allows married couples to have sex without procreation, deepening their emotional bond with one another.’” If that statement is true, this would indeed be a game-changer. If it is true.
The thing is, law is not easy. Even lawyers and judges get it wrong on a consistent basis. Laws do not exist in a vacuum. Beyond the “content” and “intent”, there are the other laws which legislatures have opted to leave on the books— laws which counteract newer laws just as newer laws counteract the older. You have to take into account international laws and regulations (at least, when it comes to intellectual property), and there are other considerations. Why, do you know that in many places there is still a law forbidding anyone to spit? Those were laws mostly enacted during The Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918, I believe, when no one knew why or how influenza was spread. Spit in some communities today and they could take you to jail. Common sense? I don’t think so.
Like I said, law isn’t easy. Hardly anything stands alone.
So why am I pissed? Shouldn’t the USTR stand give me hope? Not when it comes to the RIAA, the strongarm gestapo of the music industry. Not when they can get government and the courts to back them on their policy of ruining whomever gets in the way of their no-free-downloading policy. Not when they take it upon themselves to attempt to counteract The Copyright Act of 1976. The thing you must understand is that when legal eagles start messing with the rules and institute their views as law (something many legislators are more than happy to comply with for a fee), they have stepped beyond common sense. They have stepped on the whole entertainment community. They have stepped on the whole system of ethics— the groundrules on which real free enterprise is based. Well, ideal free enterprise, at least.
That stated, I do have a glimmer of hope. But I had that same hope when Newton Minow, then Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, made his “Vast Wasteland” speech. It only takes a cursory glance at the history of broadcasting to see how that turned out. I’m hoping— I’m really, really hoping that music does not go the way of television. I mean, I’m all for taking down Comcast. Come to think of it, I’m all for taking down the major labels, too.
Ze Pajamas, Zey Are Green, No?
Okay, it’s a crappy accent, but I needed an opening line and I have written about these guys so many times I plain ran out of them. To be blunt, The Green Pajamas are to me the best long-running show in the musical world today. What? Never heard of them? Maybe never heard them? You’re not alone and therein, some people might say, lies the problem. My problem. How to convince a public more attuned to soundbytes that not only complete songs but complete albums are the wave of the future. How to break through the white noise to prepare them for the musical juggernaut which is The Green Pajamas.
Why? Because I love the sound of Pajamas in the morning. Pajamas? I don’t need no stinkin’ Pajamas! Pajamas? You can’t handle The Pajamas! Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, The Pajamas walk into mine. A guitar, a bass and a drum walk into a bar….. Getting any of this? You awake now? Well, hear this. I have been listening to their brand spanking new album Death By Misadventure for days, broken up only by the insertion of music which demanded my attention for tax purposes, and am convinced that not only is it the strongest and best Pajamas album to-date, it is one of the strongest ever recorded. And it’s about freakin’ bees!!! You heard it right. When they sing about the queen being dead, they are referring to the Queen Bee.
I’ve just about given up trying to figure out how they do it. When it comes to music, they are a bottomless pit of ideas and movements and hooks and everything else you need to sustain a close to 30-year existence as a band. Album after album and track after track, they have kept a level of competence unheard of in my mind. The Beatles? Dead after Yoko. The Stones? Dead after Exile on Main Street. Madonna, Justin Bieber and Katy Perry? Dead on arrival. Nope. No band or artist has has or has had the consistency of The Pajamas.
Like The Pajamas’ recent earlier efforts Poison In the Russian Room and Green Pajamas Country!, Death (stream it here) is a concept album. It is strung together like beads on a string, not unlike Sgt. Pepper. It tells a story so bizarre that it runs like a Salvador Dali movie in my head as it plays. It is so musically rich I can imagine it never growing old. This, my friends, is an argument against music being dead. This is why physical product is important. An album this good demands physical product. If only as a sign of respect.
I will spare you the lengthy monologue. I do not deny having a long and drawn out relationship with the band’s music and I certainly do not apologize for it. I am amazed that it has lasted through an incredible number of albums and EPs and singles. No other band has ever held my interest through so many. It is a quandary. Luckily, All Clues Lead to Meagan’s Bed. That statement is in code.
And On the Music Front…..
Alcoholic Faith Mission’s Ask Me This continues to stun. Looking back to the seventies via Allan Thompson Band’s Salvation In the Ground and Whispering Pines‘ new self-titled album— both are outstanding. Still listening to The Strawberry Alarm Clock‘s Wake Up Where You Are and still freaked out by how amazingly well the new “old” tracks compare to the originals. Ready to dive in to The 667′s new self-titled album and The Putters‘ Good friends With Your Mother EP. Playing for gas money since 1992. Fans of early Dylan and the sixties folk scene need to check out Tom House‘s Winding Down the Road album or stop talking like they know something. Want to write about Wrinkle Neck Mules‘ three albums, but the words keep getting stuck in the fingers’ correlation to the throat and I don’t know why. Not that I’m complaining. It gives me a reason to keep listening (and I’m diggin’ it). Sydney Wayser’s Bell Choir Coast gets only an occasional listen these days because of work, but it remains toward the top of my albums of the year list. There is no other voice I’ve heard quite like Sydney’s. I’m forgetting someone, I know, and will kick myself later, but the mind wanes. You have enough to do. Follow the links. Listen to the bounty. It is waiting for you. Just like…..
Notes….. To give you an idea of what some people think of Tom House, musicians Keith Morris and Lance Smith teamed up to put together a video for Tom’s Whiskey Sings Like Angels, a track from his Winding Down the Road album. This is what music is all about, friends— musicians backing musicians. It is a great video. Watch it here. While you’re at it, why not stop by to see Keith’s video of Bordertown from his excellent Love Wounds & Mars album and Lance’s band Sinking Creek’s back door homage to westerns (The Road To Disaster). Three solid songs. Three solid videos….. I am fast turning into a big Buxter Hoot’n fan. Who, you ask? A Bay Area band which started out basically Americana and is slowly turning rock, and very impressive rock it is. They are releasing a six song EP (Na Na Na) which I assume was named thus because both the opening and closing tracks use that inane phrase. In their hands, though, it is not inane. Six strong tracks just far enough off the beaten path to be fresh. Here is a video from the new EP. Here is the video which first caught my attention. Review coming soon. However, if you’re really interested, here is a sneak peek, erm, listen….. What’s this? Courtesy of Cary Cooper, a fingerpoint to a Facebook page called Real Women*Real Songs. Here’s what it’s all about, I think. Starting September 1st, fourteen women are going to start writing songs like a bat out of hell. Those songs will be posted over a period of time on the RWRS page. Look, pals, this ain’t easy. Try it yourself. Hell, try writing a sentence every day and I’ll bet most of you will run out of words and ideas all too soon. Anyway, this is a heads up. If things work out, not only will it be interesting, it might be downright cool….. Been listening to the new Ticktockman Calling Out the Hounds EP. It reinforces what I thought when I first heard their self-titled album, that they are freakin’ monsters! Not a weak link anywhere. Power amplified. Intense. I am freaked out!….. Heard Red Rattles yet? If you like brash, in-your-face fifties rock and white boy R&B, you might dig them. I do. You can stream their latest album Shake on their bandcamp page. Guitar, drums and voice. That’s all they need. Yet another Charlottesville product. That city just keeps crankin’ ‘em out. And the really good news is that they are working on a new project for WarHen Records. Stay tuned….. Excellent news! Cahalen Morrison & Eli West have made their goal on Kickstarter. They can now finish up their Our Lady of the Tall Trees album. Their last, The Holy Coming of the Storm, was old-timey modernism in music and a total delight. If you haven’t heard it, sample it here….. That Laurie Biagini! I no sooner put up a link to her latest video and she puts out another one, this one Tarzan-themed. It’s no wonder I’m so far behind. Just keeping up with her is a full-time job. Watch it here….. Drivin’ & Cryin’ is back with a vengeance. The first of four EPs to be released over a twelve-month period has hit the street and they are touring with new guitarist Sadler Vaden, who won fame around the South Carolina area when he fronted Leslie. You want to hear some seventies’-style leads, check this out….. Some of you may have read my continuing sagas of Charlottesville in which I more often than not mention guitarist/singer Danny Schmidt. Well, Danny’s latest project includes Carrie Elkin, a lady who knows Danny better than anyone, both personally and musically. Two tracks— a single, I guess you could say: Danny’s Company of Friends, a song which has highlighted many of his concerts, and Carrie’s Swing From a Note. Two excellent tracks from two beautifully intertwined voices. You can purchase the pre-release at iTunes….. For my money, there is no better series of music videos out there than those done by Music Fog. They cover a wi-i-de variety of artists, do amazing soundand post videos indiscriminately. Following their videos is a good way to get turned on to an amazing array of excellent music. I’d never heard of Will Hoge until this morning when friend Joe Phillips of Wildcat Records posted a link on Facebook. I like this guy. I wonder if Music Fog makes everyone sound this good. Watch the video here….. Naps R Gud. Heading there now…..
Frank’s column appears every Wednesday
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“Frank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.”